Development Goals And Experiences
Nepal has already fixed ambitious goals for national development. It has set an important target to make a transition from the Least Developed Country status to Developing Country Status by 2022. It is committed to achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by 2030. Ultimately, Nepal aspires to be a middle income country by 2030. On the political and government side the country is poised to implement its recently promulgated constitution which has made the country a republic and restructured it to federal structure. On the social side it is to become more inclusive, equitable and just. In this context, the challenge and opportunities for the planners is how to achieve all these aspiration within a given timeframe so that the essence of democratic spirit is protected and economic, political, social and environmental balance is maintained.
For this, Nepal has the opportunity to draw on its past experiences. Past seven decades have seen periodic political movements and subsequent change in the government system of Nepal. The objective of all these changes has been more democratic system than before. Beginning with the change from a controlled feudal system in 1949, then with parliamentary democracy with King as sovereign in the 1959, then a system without party after a brief period of multiparty democracy it has experimented in early1961 which lasted until 1989. Then in 1990 a multiparty system was reintroduced with representatives directly elected to the parliament. After about two decades of practice of parliamentary democracy there was a movement to change in the structure of the government and governance system to make it more inclusive.
These continuous struggle and following systemic changes had underlying objectives to make the governance system more representative, responsive and democratic to the citizen of the country. In post 1990s period, while the above changes were going on at the national level, at the local level various models were introduced to ensure more participatory governance. These efforts were geared to making the government system more decentralised. The underlying assumption was that the process would ensure greater participation of local citizens in development process and the issues of their concern. The idea was to devolve more authority and resources to the local units of governments. It was also assumed that empowered and mobilised community members would be enabled and demand for transparency and accountability from the decision makers.
Various programmes were launched to support governance at the local level. The Participatory District Development Programme, supported by UNDP, was implemented. Later, Local Governance and Community Development Programme (LGCDP) was designed and supported by different development partners - ADB, World Bank and others to support local level governance improvement. The ultimate goal of these programmes was poverty reduction. Millennium Development Goal was implemented at a time when the country had established cooperative framework between state, market and civil society. It was a period of liberal democratic triumph. It was a period when the liberal democracy was the unquestioned model for development. The state was liberal, market was open, and civil society was active and strong and fully engaged in advocacy for greater rights to the marginalised people and in the development activities at the local level especially in rural areas.
Despite these changes, Nepal underwent a period of high and low tide in terms of expectations. The major policy reorientation with unprecedented armed conflict, people’s movement against the prevailing system, elimination of monarchy, dissolution of unitary state and writing and promulgating a new constitution by people’s representative for the governance of the country were the key epoch making events. Despite these upheavals, the country is on track with progress made in most of the social indicators. The Nepalese society demonstrated strong resilience during long armed conflict and political instability at the national level to maintain the achievements.
Though there was an increasing effect of conflict especially in rural are, the decentralised governance, empowerment programmes, and community mobilisation were executed successfully. Periodic progress review had indicated that the country were on track or not as well as the gaps and weaknesses in our implementation process. The change in political system and economic development goal set in Nepal were very much results of the global trend in politics and economic development. The fall of socialist countries in Eastern Europe and the symbolic fall of Berlin wall had inspired and influenced the political thinking and movements in Nepal. The liberal political and economic agenda prevailed.
At the state level, the idea of “facilitating state” was often used to limit and soften the role of state in social and economic sphere of things. The facilitating state implied creating friendly environment for civil society to act and grow in the social sector development. It provided wide spaces and role for civil society organisations. Their advocacy role was recognised by the state. As a result they grew several hundred times. The open space provided by liberal economic policies in almost all sectors ensured greater role of private sector.
This policy change showed results in the economy as its size grew significantly and private sector contribution within two decade jumped nearly 70 per cent of the national economy. The private sector investment in transport, airlines, telecommunication, education and health increased significantly. While the macro development framework followed the idea of smaller, regulating and promoting role of state and the governance at the local level was becoming more participatory and democratic. The “decentralisation” and “local self-governance” concept was guiding the governance.
However, these achievements were negated and the country was plunged into difficult state because of the absence of the elected democratic institutions at the local level. The new federal structure built according to the constitution of Nepal 2015 and elections held for three tiers of the government has dawned a new era of political, material and social development in the country. But what is needed has been the tenacity to learn from the past experiences and move forward taking the popular democratic expectations and needs into account. The concerns raised over extractive and exorbitant taxation at the local level should be addressed and confidence and trust of the people should be gained so that sustainable development goals and aspiration to graduate into developing country status could be achieved.